Al Horford continues to find ways to influence the games. No longer an inside scorer, Horford has become an integral member of the boston celtics‘Five-out system, with Joe Mazzulla using his playmaking ability, ever-improving 3-point shooting and willingness to be a blocker to ensure Horford’s offensive impact remains a potent offensive weapon.
Defensively, Horford continues to excel at the angles, using his body to cut up driving lanes, deter passing opportunities, and protect the rim against smaller, shapeshifting players while pummeling the mammoths the NBA has to offer.
Against charlotte hornets On Monday night, we saw all aspects of the modern Horford, with the veteran shining in his role and seemingly showing a new lease on life now that he’s being paired with Robert Williams. As with everything the Celtics do these days, Horford’s impact began on the perimeter, with him acting as a connector within a solid offensive possession that displayed fantastic projection and movement to generate a wide-open 3-point shot. .
Possession begins with Horford positioned in the corner, an area of the court where he currently stands. converting 47% of his shots, hitting 31 of his 66 attempts thus far. When Marcus Smart comes off a Derrick White screen, he launches into a wide pin-down to open up Horford. A quick pass from Robert Williams sees Horford gain possession before quickly flicking the ball to White before setting up a screen to create an open look.
Horford’s presence at the corner ensured that the Hornets’ defense remained spaced out. His subsequent moves ensured the defense got going (kudos to Robert Williams for cutting when he did, taking Mason Plumlee away from the action) and Horford’s screen created an open shot.
This is what Horford does. He plays the game the right way, never focusing on the scoring or individual doubles, but on creating the best chance possible, regardless of who takes the shot.
Speaking of creating opportunities, can we take a moment to appreciate the connection between Horford and Williams on this globe? Watching the Celtics’ two big men team up like this is nothing short of a treat and an embarrassment of riches in their starting five.
We could look further into Horford’s offense, but in terms of this one game, his role was clear: screen (had 3 screen assists), passing (made 35 passes), floor space (50% shooting from low). deep). All the things that Horford does well, but also the things that limited his direct participation in the actions. As such, let’s shift our attention to the defensive side of the floor because, as we all know, Horford can defend with the best of them.
For most of the season, we’ve seen Mazzulla use Horford as a defender or as a big man playing tag on the blocker and then reacting to the player. However, on the earlier possession, Ageless Al is guarding 25-year-old Dennis Smith Jr. on the perimeter as he looks to force him out of the three-point line and hit a tough jumper or pass.
As the play unfolds, we see Smith Jr. try to test Horford’s lateral mobility and quickness as he pushes into the paint in hopes of creating some separation between himself and his biggest defender. He doesn’t say. Horford moves his feet well, stays with his shoulder and hits the shot enough to force a miss, all while guarding a smaller, faster player without fouling him down the line.
On this possession, Horford is back in his usual coverage, looking to contain Terry Rozier’s drive and Plumlee’s spin. As Rozier rejects the screen, Smart and Horford position their bodies to remove the paint and channel their former teammate toward the baseline, encouraging him to pass, shoot, or re-establish possession and go deep on the shot clock.
Rozier opts to pass, finding Plumlee around the spike. Remarkably, Horford turns his hips and covers enough distance to get close to the Hornets big man in one step, giving him the angle to absorb any contact while also hitting any potential pitch. Horford’s positioning has ensured that Plumlee doesn’t have a clear look at the rim or the backboard, forcing him to do a little backboard-hitting bunny fade.
Horford has never been the most athletic or explosive player, however his basketball IQ and ability to close space with well-timed angles and movement have always ensured that he is an impactful member of a rotation. Now 36, years of using positions, angles and thinking the game is paying off as he continues to try to outsmart his opponents.
“He always steps up and answers the doorbell. He is a great competitor, a great teammate. It’s all about winning,” Billy Donovan (who trained Horford during their time together in Florida) saying after the victory of the Celtics on January 9 over the Chicago Bulls.
The Celtics may need to start thinking about potential replacements for Horford in the near future, but for now, and hopefully over the next two years (the length of his recent contract extension), he can continue to impact games on both ends. from the field. and prove that ‘Ageless Al’ is more than just a love nickname supplied by Celtics fans online.
I’m sorry, but there can be no more Al Horford smears after this. Dude has been great recently, and this dunk was just the icing on the cake of an impressive performance. pic.twitter.com/9Au6beK47S
—Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) January 17, 2023
Fortunately, moments like the dunk pictured above make it easy to believe that Horford will be around for a while to come, and that his leadership will remain a constant presence inside the locker room and on the court.